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How to Maintain Healthy Habits During The Holidays, According To Nourish Dietitians

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How to Maintain Healthy Habits During The Holidays, According To Nourish Dietitians

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

The holidays are a special time of year that includes quality time with loved ones, traditions, and delicious foods. This season, our dietitians want to share their favorite tips to help you maintain healthy habits during the holidays. 

Keep reading for expert nutrition advice on how to build balanced meals that include your favorite foods, how mindfulness can help, and why light movement is beneficial. 

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Eat Consistent, Balanced Meals

Ellie Stamerjohn, MS, RDN, LD

Many people may want to “save up” (save their calories) for big meals during the holiday season. Skipping meals or going for prolonged periods without eating can result in low blood sugar, making you feel weak, irritable, and more likely to overeat at the next meal. 

Additionally, waiting to eat when ravenous can lead to eating too quickly, which can cause bloating and indigestion. To prevent these unpleasant side effects, plan your meals ahead of time and try to stick to a schedule. 

A good rule of thumb is to eat a balanced meal every 4-5 waking hours. For example, if you know your big Thanksgiving meal is 5 pm, plan a balanced breakfast around 9 am and lunch in the afternoon around 1 pm. 

Some breakfast ideas include Greek yogurt, berries, chia, and pumpkin seeds. You can enjoy a grain bowl with farro, chickpeas, arugula, salmon, and avocado for lunch. 

Each meal contains protein, fiber, and healthy fats, which will keep you full, balance your blood sugar, and manage your cravings, setting you up for success at your holiday festivities. 

Don't sweat if you overeat or have more indulgent foods later. It’s just one day. Try to reflect on how you could better listen to your hunger and fullness cues and take mental notes for next time. 

The holidays are a special time of year, and you should enjoy all foods with your loved ones. Regular behaviors are more important for your health, so enjoy the holiday and don’t be too hard on yourself. 

Go for a Walk for Enjoyable Movement

Christina Harris, MS, RD, LDN

Depending on your health goals, staying consistent with your exercise routine might be a priority during the holidays. Movement may help regulate blood sugar levels, manage stress, and aid digestion. 

Some people may need to adjust their exercise routine during the holidays to accommodate traveling, being away from their local gym, and having a busier schedule than usual. 

A simple way to prioritize movement is to include regular walks after a meal. Light exercise can help ease feelings of fullness and bloating. Ask a friend or family member to walk with you to make it fun and social. 

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Practice Mindful Eating

Christina Harris, MS, RD, LDN

Instead of stressing about yummy holiday foods, try to engage in mindful eating practices. These include taking a few deep breaths before eating, paying attention to hunger and fullness cues, eating slowly, and chewing thoroughly to help digestion. 

Additionally, focus on being present during meal times by decreasing distractions. This will help you tune into your “fullness meter” while eating your balanced meal. 

You can practice mindful eating at any holiday event, including family get-togethers or casual hangouts with friends. 

Engaging in mindful eating can help you enjoy your favorite holiday foods without compromising your health goals. 

Prioritize Adding Protein When You Can

Taylor Hawkins, RD, LD

Protein takes a little longer for your body to digest than carbohydrates. As a result, it helps you feel full and, when eaten with carbohydrates, can balance blood sugar levels by minimizing blood sugar spikes and crashes. This will result in stable energy post-meal (i.e., no turkey coma) and fewer cravings. 

Finding the carbs and fat to add to your plate is easy, but sometimes, finding a protein source takes intentionality. To build a balanced meal, fill ¼  of your plate with protein and fill the rest with your preferred carbs, fat, and veggie sources. Now, your dish will be nutritious and satisfying. 

Some common protein sources in your holiday spread may include poultry, beef, pork, eggs, fish, deli meat, cheese, tofu, quinoa, beans, milk, and Greek yogurt.

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Add Vegetables to Your Plate!

Christa Brown, MS, RDN, LD

We often arrive at the holiday meal table excited to enjoy the feast ahead. Afterward, you may feel concerned that you might overdo it. 

There is a trick that I teach each of my patients to help them feel at ease during the holidays. First, it’s permitting yourself to enjoy the foods you like because it makes it easier to avoid overeating. There is some research to support this! The more exposure and acceptance you have of those foods, the less likely you are to overeat. 

If you’re not ready to start the permission journey, that’s ok! I encourage you to get a fist-size amount of non-starchy vegetables as part of your first plate of food. Examples include sautéed greens, cauliflower mash, roasted Brussels sprouts, or spaghetti squash with basil pesto. 

The fiber in these items allows your “full button” to go off. You can apply this strategy in any environment with yummy foods. 

If you’re worried there won’t be a vegetable option, offer to bring a side dish. This way, you’re helping the host and bringing foods that will help you feel comfortable after eating. 

Takeaway

Follow our dietitian’s tips to enjoy your favorite holiday foods while maintaining healthy habits. 

You can build a balanced plate at meals by including various vegetables, protein, and starches. 

While eating, incorporate mindfulness by savoring each bite and chewing thoroughly. Listen to your hunger and fullness cues and enjoy second helpings if you’re still hungry. 

After your meals, plan to go for a slow-paced walk with friends and family. Chances are high that others will crave light movement after eating, too.  

Remember, long-term behaviors influence your health, so it’s okay to overeat one night. If this happens, be kind to yourself and remember all the positive changes you’ve already made.

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